For more than a year now, shoppers have been able to buy cheap six-packs of private-label beer at Walgreens around the country. The brew, Big Flats 1901, is often described by reviewers as “drinkable,” high praise considering it costs about 50¢ a can. Ironically, though, the brand-new upscale 27,350-square-foot Walgreens in downtown Chicago is one spot where a pale, watered-down lager seems totally out of place.
From 1926 to 2005, Walgreens operated a landmark store at the corner of Randolph and State in Chicago. On Tuesday, the location opened its doors to a new flagship store that’ll sell a lot more than Nyquil, pantyhose, and cheap beer.
This is not a mom-and-pop drugstore. It’s not a cookie-cutter chain pharmacy location either. Per Walgreens’ announcement, among the store’s most surprising features are:
*A wide variety of fresh hand-rolled sushi and sashimi prepared daily.
*A juice bar featuring fresh fruits and vegetables and made-to-order smoothies.
*A best-in-class wine selection boasting more than 700 fine wines will pair well with artisan and brie cheeses as well as an assortment of specialty meats, decadent chocolates and more.
The store will also host a boutique where customers can get virtual makeovers and actual hands-on manicures. An “Eyebrow Bar” is available for those seeking professional shaping and grooming services.
Yes, you’ll still be able to get your prescriptions filled. But you can also consult with an in-store health guide, who’ll be armed with an iPad to help customers consider various wellness products, immunizations, and other services.
In tribute to the history of the location, the new Walgreens will serve old-fashioned soda-fountain-style chocolate malted milkshakes based on a Walgreens manager’s invention from 1922. Alternately, customers could go with self-serve frozen yogurt, or perhaps an exclusive “State and Randolph” cup of fresh-brewed coffee.
What’s with the swift move upscale? Have consumers really been clamoring for sushi and artisanal cheese and whatnot in their drugstores?
The Chicago Tribune writes that while “very few [Walgreens] will look as glitzy as the new one,” the chain is actively looking to renovate and offer new products and services, along with a change in atmosphere and perception among the public, in order to draw in more customers. Offering the standard drugstore experience is no longer enough, according to Walgreen executive Kermit Crawford:
“The pill is no longer the product,” Crawford said. “Our product now is customer service and relationships with our customers that result in better health outcomes for patients and payers.”